The 3 Ms of Recruiting Millennials—Change Your Recruitment Habits To Grab Today’s Top Young Workers

Diane Thielfoldt

Diane Thielfoldt is co-founder of The Learning Cafe (, a consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations develop, engage, and retain the talent of every generation. Also a workshop facilitator and an engaging speaker, she has educated hundreds of managers on issues involving the multigenerational workforce. She can be reached at

October 1, 2013

Having trouble finding and hiring candidates with
the right skill set? You may want to consider broadening your scope to include
younger prospects. This huge—and hugely promising—demographic could hold the
key to your company’s short- and long-term success.

The often-maligned Millennial
generation (born 1977 to 1998) will inevitably become members and even leaders
of your organization. By 2014, half of all employees in the world will be
people born after 1980—who tend to have advanced educations and are eager to
keep learning—so it is crucial to start attracting this new talent. However,
you will most likely have to make some changes to your recruitment strategies
to ensure you attract the best candidates.

To entice the cream of the Millennial crop to your organization, you need

  • Have
    “magnets” in place that appeal specifically to this generation;

  • Target
    your message to speak to their needs and wants; and

  • Use
    unique channels or media to broadcast your message.

Magnetize Your Organization To Attract Millennials

Depending on the state of your organization,
attracting and retaining top Millennial talent may require a reboot of the
culture to incorporate the traits this generation values most. Keep in mind
that these candidates will be hot commodities, so your efforts will be
worthwhile; the more top talent you bring in from universities and colleges,
the more vital, forward thinking, and change embracing your organization will

What should
your Millennial magnets be? Consider what this generation values most in an
employer to figure out how you can fulfill those values.

Variety of Work and Fast Pace

Variety of tasks
and responsibilities goes hand in hand with Millennials’ love of being
challenged. They are attracted to jobs where the types of work are constantly
changing, requiring them to learn as they go, maintain a fast pace, and adapt.
For example, one Millennial said he was attracted to a position because “the
job promised doing something different every day, with plenty of learning
opportunities.” Once he started working, he was happy to find that “the
environment is challenging and definitely not boring!” Take a look at your job
descriptions—is this quality something you offer? If not, how can you
reorganize a position or department to add variety to everyone’s work schedule?

Learning Opportunities

Yes, Millennials love to continue learning—but
there is a mercenary factor in this value: the generation is eager to gain new
responsibilities and move up the ladder quickly. Millennials cite “opportunity
to advance” as one of the main things that attract them. Millennials seek
employers with leaders who can guide them through steady advancement
opportunities. Mentoring programs, professional development, and tuition
reimbursement are some add-ons that can help you attract good candidates—as is
the ability to move up the ladder within your organization.

Friendly Culture and Team Approach

Millennials want to commit to their
jobs, and that means committing to an employer with a “fun” and welcoming
culture. Millennials pay attention even while interviewing, and will look for
hints of a work environment that is open and comfortable; where people are
genuine, passionate, and authentic. Some Millennials appreciate a laid-back
culture, where people know when to work hard and when to play. Can you add an
element of warmth and fun to your organization, with special events, rewards,
and open communication?

Perhaps because they grew up
heavily involved in sports and other team activities, Millennials tend to prefer
team environments and a “flat” hierarchy. One interviewee told me, “A company
that is very team-oriented is appealing, [with] the option to go to anyone for
help or with an idea—talking to a VP or even the President.”

Being Appreciated

Millennials may
be the new kids on the block, but they want respect. They want to be of value
to an employer, and they want that value acknowledged. One Millennial expressed
it this way: “I appreciate the investment they made in me—the time, energy, and
money to train me. They have invested so much in me that I am 100% invested in
them.” With management buy-in, it should be relatively
easy to create this magnet through a thoughtful
orientation process and ongoing employee communications.

Work-Life Balance

Perhaps even more than older generations (who have
learned the hard way), Millennials expect a healthy balance between giving
their all at work and enjoying time off for their personal lives. One
Millennial working in an industrial occupation explained, “Although my
education is in psychology and research, I was looking for something with a
more family-friendly environment and the opportunity for work-life balance. My
employer is a very family-friendly company.” Flex time, telecommuting, and
reasonable amounts of vacation or paid time off are all magnets.

Remember that you must be
prepared to follow through on the magnets you work to create. Your biggest
challenge may turn out to be keeping those hard-won new hires and avoiding high
turnover rates. Those in the Millennial generation are not afraid to walk away
from a job they see as unfulfilling, and the first 90 days of employment are
particularly tenuous. To hang onto Millennials, keep those magnets in place and
deliver what you promise, or you will have to go back to the drawing board!

Rethink Your Messaging

Study Millennial magnets, select the ones that best
apply to your organization, and structure concise messages incorporating those
benefits. It is important to note that they are benefits. Studies show that
Millennials value certain “soft” benefits, such as a loose policy on using
social media at work and opportunities for work-life balance, over salary and
retirement packages. Take time to incorporate messaging that shows openness to
these types of benefits (as appropriate) in your job listings, Careers web
page, individual position descriptions, and interview conversations.

EXAMPLE: In job descriptions, be clear in outlining
the variety of projects and responsibilities. For open positions, you might translate this into looking for
candidates who are “flexible and fast on their feet,” “good team players,” and
“open to change”— all appealing phrases to Millennials.

Using your messages, draft an internal “Millennial mission statement” for
your recruitment efforts and share it with all recruiters, marketing staff, and
other involved employees so that your messaging to this age group is on target
and consistent. (See “The Integral Role of the Talent Scout.”) This mission
statement should directly address one or more of the Millennial magnets: your
organization offers a variety of work/responsibilities, a fast pace, ongoing
learning opportunities, a friendly culture, team-based work arrangements, good
work-life balance, etc. The big sell should be what Millennial candidates can
contribute, how they can impact the company, and what they might learn while
there. Sell Millennials on why they should come on board; what their career
progression will be; and, most importantly, how they will make an impact on not
just the company, but the world.

Choose Your Media

The available
channels you use to attract younger candidates include a variety of on-site
recruiting options at colleges and universities, as well as multiple online

Millennials care about reputation. Job candidates of this generation
prefer interviewing with companies they are familiar with and have formed a
good opinion of. A long-term approach to introducing your organization to them
will go far in helping your recruitment efforts pay off.

Today’s young job candidates
are making career choices early. To recruit the best and brightest, you should
start courting these candidates well before they graduate. Increasing your
presence at job fairs and on-campus recruiting events is crucial. You can
streamline your involvement by identifying specific colleges or vocational
schools around the country that offer the programs that best prepare your
future workforce and concentrate on those. Send employees or recruiters to talk
to instructors and students about upcoming opportunities to start generating
interest in the future workforce. Also, encourage employee involvement in their
alumni associations so that students can make the connection with what you do
and what types of employees you hire.

When recruiting on campus, put your Millennial employees to work. This
generation is peer influenced and will respond to seeing recruiters or current
employees in their own age group.

To be truly proactive, consider identifying promising students in their
freshman and sophomore years of college or trade school, or in their final
years of high school or vocational schools, and provide them with summer
internships until they graduate. They are more likely to take a permanent job
at an organization they already know. You can even form partnerships with
select high schools, technical schools, and community colleges. (Placing
employee teachers at technical schools or community colleges is an ideal way to
scope out future talent.) You can also consider how to appeal to Millennials’
strong sense of social responsibility.

EXAMPLE: One well-known company hosts an
annual, all-expenses-paid volunteer outing over spring break, where selected
college students work alongside company employees on charitable projects such
as repairing homes or helping with tax return preparation. Consider doing
something on a smaller scale—inviting students to join employees for a Habitat
for Humanity day or an afternoon at the local food bank.

It is obvious that this
generation relies on the Internet for information and communication, so make
sure your online presence is not only comprehensive and up to date, but
relevant and interesting. Update your Careers page to keep it fresh and
exciting; and consider adding a separate page just for your target audience,
with information specific to college students and recent grads. This microsite
should be continually updated and can feature case studies, photos, and
day-in-the-life videos along with solid content presented in a fun,
interesting, and interactive way. Remember that this generation is extremely
Internet savvy, so make it easy for candidates to apply online!

Members of older generations
may cringe at the amount of personal information Millennials share online, but
they expect the same of potential employers. Beef up your website (or
recruitment microsite) with information about organizational values and
culture, text or video profiles of some of your current employees, and details
of any benefits (hard or soft) that support your mission statement.

It is vital that you find ways to be unique and creative with your
social media presence. Get Millennials’ attention, offer them information of
value (such as job-seeking tips for your industry, or a salary survey), and
show them videos that help them understand what it is like to work in your
field. Start a blog that will get their attention, and comment on relevant
LinkedIn groups and message boards. Every post, Tweet, status update, and
comment should keep your Millennial mission statement in mind and show that you
are a desirable employer.

Part of your online presence should demonstrate that you are an
approachable organization and are willing and able to form one-on-one
relationships. Millennials expect to build relationships with all individuals
in their lives—from their grade school classmates to famous stars like Justin
Timberlake—and that should include a specific representative within your
organization. For example, if you use a dedicated Twitter account for
recruitment, make it a more personal connection by naming who your followers
are interacting with—show that there is a real person behind your corporation.

Recruiting the very best
Millennial candidates possible is essential to your organization’s future. By
following these 3 Ms of recruiting, you can find the top talent who will add to
and advance your business’s interests.


The Integral Role of the Talent Scout

The key to the 3 Ms of
recruiting Millennials is the people doing the recruiting. Consider how great
an impact that scout/interviewer has on the candidates: This is their first
impression of your company—their opinion and desire to work for you are going
to stem from these meetings.

Your Human Resources
team, outside recruiters, and managers who interview must be able to identify
the magnets and “talk the talk” when it comes to your messages. It is a fact
that job candidates assess you as a boss within the first 3 minutes of the
interview. Here is how to make those minutes—and the rest of the

Top-notch talent
scouts can mix old-school interviewing with fresh, cutting-edge practices. In
traditional talent scouting, the recruiter talks about your organization’s open
positions in ways that appeal to each generation and adjusts his or her
interviewing approaches for each new candidate being recruited. A skilled
talent scout has the ability and knowledge to:

  • Put talent
    first—they know how to sell recruits on your company and the job;

  • Promote your
    company’s culture and values to others;

  • Look beneath the
    surface to identify talents needed on a team or project;

  • Attract diverse
    candidates with qualities that complement current competencies and

  • Create a realistic
    job description with a short list of the most critical competencies;

  • Interview for
    talent—they do not consider only education and experience, but look at
    emotional intelligence competencies such as social skills, drive, and empathy;

  • Initiate a frank
    discussion about job activities, performance expectations, work team, working
    conditions, rules and policies, work culture, manager’s style, and the
    company’s financial stability;

  • Resist finding
    clones of themselves—they seek diversity, variety, and balance;

  • Double-check their
    opinions by asking others for their opinion of candidates;

  • Make an offer to the
    candidate based on the best qualifications for the job and the best fit with
    the company’s culture; and

  • Hire for fit—both
    job fit and cultural fit.

Have your recruiters
use the tried-and-true tactics, but consider mixing in some novel approaches to
hiring, particularly if you are interviewing Millennials. Here are some

  • Go
    beyond the traditional first interview questions. There
    is so much information available online that both parties have likely
    prequalified each other before meeting. If so,
    the first meeting can skip some of the traditional questions and become more of
    a continuing conversation about
    what you already know about each other. Enlightened interviewers know that
    building personal and professional networks (including online) is a sign of a
    high-performing professional.

  • Try an online job
    interview instead of the traditional phone interview. Video interviewing can help
    hiring managers speak with a wide array of candidates and learn more about each
    prospective new hire before he or she visits the office.

  • Assign
    a trial project. This tactic may work better than an interview: Next time you
    are hiring, consider giving top candidates a constrained project to execute.
    Ask them to redesign a social media campaign, document a tricky bit of
    software, edit a sales presentation, or produce a webinar. Look at the results
    and decide which candidates were able to deliver real value. Be aware that you
    may need to pay them for their time.

  • Toss out the “cookie
    cutter” interview questions (beginning with “Where do you see yourself in 5
    years?”). Instead, ask for the candidate’s perspective on real-time
    organizational challenges or trends in your industry. That answer is far more
    likely to give you meaningful insight into the candidate’s knowledge, thought
    process, and personality; and can help you make a smarter hire for your team.
    Similarly, ask questions aimed to uncover work ethic and qualities that no
    degree can teach—like tenacity, persistence, and on-your-feet thinking.